Why we wronly belittle our accomplishments?

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Why we wronly belittle our accomplishments?

”Well, that was nothing!” or “That is not that big of a thing!” Do you often say these or similar sentences? Then you can be accused of (most likely wrongly) belittling your accomplishments. This behavior is common among many women but is not necessarily gender-specific. Whether we show a tendency to belittle what we have done is influenced by an interplay of our social setting and personal characteristics. Read on to find out which of the characteristics influence you.


How do your parents react?

Imagine you have written a B in a test. Is this good or bad?  Whether we judge our achievement as good or bad is influenced by a comparison with our personal standards. These standards are influenced by several aspects. For example, how do important people around you, e.g. like your parents, react to this grade? Are they happy? Are they disappointed? Often especially good students and high performers experience a funny paradox: People around them have so high expectations and are used to the best grades, that they might show disappointment with a B. Other students, who have set the bar for expectations lower, will feel very successful even with lower grades. The external voices have become internalized, therefore, you might belittle even quite good accomplishments, because you have developed the highest expectations. 


What have others got?

Another important aspect of forming our personal standards are the accomplishments of others. An achievement is often not seen and should not be seen apart from the context. However, the reference group you choose is a key to your happiness. Comparing your body to a Victoria Secret model, might not be quite fair to yourself and leave you constantly unsatisfied with your body. But comparisons with other groups which appear more “realistic” might be flawed as well. My personal experience is that extremely high achievements are always a combination of a beneficial context and hard work. Nevertheless, the beneficial context is too often not communicated for two reasons. First, it might not be reflected. We tend to own our success wholeheartedly and overlook lucky coincidences. Secondly, especially the media is seeking to create heroes and a lot of us think that this is what we need to be. Therefore, we end up not talking about the facilitating circumstances that made an incredible performance possible.


Your reference group grows with you

Once you have achieved a certain goal, for example, finishing school or getting a college degree, we tend to be surrounded by people who have accomplished that, too. Recently, a friend of mine told me that she had successfully accomplished the first year of her studies. At her college, the first year is a test phase and a lot of students are kicked out after that time when they fail to deliver the required performance. When I congratulated her, she started to belittle her performance immediately. She stopped to compare herself with the ones that did not make it, but rather focused on the group that still surrounded her. Differences are a lot more visible than similarities. Therefore, we tend to focus on what makes us different from others rather than similar characteristics. Once you have a degree that you share with others it becomes irrelevant for the comparison. Similar to Tetris. Once the last bit fits in the line, the line disappears.   


Whose accomplishment is it?

We tend to belittle our accomplishments when we do not feel responsible for our success. As already mentioned we have a twisted relationship with luck. Heavily over- or underestimating its influence might have both ways negative effects. Whether we focus on our part that led to success or the circumstance is not only dependent on the situational variables but also our personality. Some of us struggle to own their success and others take always full credit for a success even though their part in it might have been small.


What do you think of yourself?

Have you admired people who have achieved a certain goal, which you pursued yourself but once you reached that goal you wondered why you ever thought that this goal would be something special? This might be a sign that you deep down suffer from very low self-esteem. You might have internalized the dogma that a goal seems not worthy anymore, once you (an unworthy person) have reached it. This is a very common pattern among pick-up-artists. A group of men that systematically try to seduce women. Once they have reached their goal and slept with the woman, they immediately start to devalue her. It is important to free yourself from this idea. You are a worthy being and you can and should own your success.

Published on Saturday 16th October 2021

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